We’re on the east coast this week, celebrating the holidays with friends and family, and since we’re within range of New York City we’ll be popping in to enjoy a few great meals in the nation’s culinary capital. Our first non-turkey holiday meal took place at db Bistro Moderne, Chef Daniel Boulud’s contemporary bistro in the theatre district. Having enjoyed great holiday meals at Chef Boulud’s restaurants in years past – particularly at the hands of Chef Gavin Kaysen of Café Boulud – we headed to db Bistro Modern both to check out their legendary burger (more on this later) and to say hello to sommelier Alex LaPratt, formerly of The French Laundry.
Chef Laurent Kalkotour leads the kitchen at db Bistro Moderne and his modern, American interpretations of French bistro cuisine were delightful. We started out the evening with a Tarte Flambée, the classic Alsatian flatbread, made lighter than some through the use of fromage blanc and cooked, though not caramelized, onions. There was an artfully prepared Foie Gras Torchon with caramelized pineapple to provide a traditional sweet counterpoint to the torchon’s richness. A beautifully presented salad of young garden vegetables with ricotta and lemon confit demonstrated that despite the freezing temperatures, fresh and light flavors are still abundantly available in the winter kitchen. A perfectly cooked piece of wild striped bass was served with a parsnip purée and roasted figs, providing another light, yet wholly seasonal, dish to our table.
Now about that burger. Among those who enjoy casual American fare as much as fine continental cuisine and those who on occasion enjoy overindulgence as a sort of sport – and we are most certainly both – the bd Bistro signature burger is a bit of a legend. Why? Because a stout patty of ground sirloin is stuffed with braised beef short ribs, foie gras and black truffles, grilled to a perfect medium rare and served on a parmesan bun. An ideal dish for guiltless enjoyment during the free pass of the holiday season. The burger was as rumored – a delicious blend of complex flavors that were at once both familiar – it is after all a burger – and exotic. Most surprising perhaps was the fact that despite the initial shock of the burger’s height, the portion size was perfect – just enough burger for everyone at the table to enjoy a taste and to leave the primary consumer satisfied but not overwhelmed.
Dinner at db Bistro Modern was an entirely enjoyable experience, thanks in no small part to the artful wine selections of the aforementioned Alex LaPratt. Glasses of Chef Boulud’s own “Cuvée Daniel” produced by the Champagne house Paillard accompanied our first few courses while a fantastic glass of Copain Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley and a 1/4 liter of Châteauneuf-du-Pape perfectly rounding out our entrées.